CORTANA MALL
Airline Highway / US 61 & 190 & Florida Boulevard / US 190
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

By the mid-1970s, Louisiana's Capital Area was ready for its first mega mall. 103 acres were sectioned from the 418 acre Cortana Plantation tract. The site was situated 5.3 miles east of the Bayou State Statehouse.

Construction got underway in 1974, under the auspices of Baton Rouge-based Milton J. Womack, Incorporated. In February 1976, the first store was completed; a 1-level (118,500 square foot) Goudchaux's, which was the Baton Rouge-based chain's first branch location. This was joined by a 2-level (200,000 square foot) J.C. Penney, 2-level (241,000 square foot) Sears, 2-level (238,000 square foot) Dillard's and 1-level (90,000 square foot), Baton Rouge-based H.J. Wilson Catalog Showroom.

The official dedication of CORTANA MALL was held August 3, 1976. With a retail roster of over one hundred stores and services, and a GLA of 1,386,300 square feet, the mammoth merchandising mecca opened as the largest shopping mall in the state.

In addition to its five anchors, the complex housed stores such as Thom McAn Shoes, Foxmoor Casuals, Chess King, Dutch Maid Donuts, Record Bar, Waldenbooks and Cortana Holiday Hallmark, as well as a Piccadilly Cafeteria and Cortana Mall I-II-III multiplex.

The first mall-type center in the city, the open-air BON MARCHE {1 mile west of the CORTANA MALL site, in the city of Baton Rouge} had been dedicated in 1964. This shopping venue was enclosed in 1971 and is known today as BON CARRE BUSINESS CENTER, an office and call center complex. Next came the region's first retail center built as an enclosed structure, ESPLANADE MALL {3.2 miles southwest, also in the city of Baton Rouge}. It was dedicated in 1973.

The first enlargement of store space at CORTANA MALL took place in 1981, when Goudchaux's added a second level. The store now incorporated 237,000 square feet. In the mid-1980s, a 2-level (82,000 square foot) Mervyn's was built, along with a seven store (12,600 square foot) wing. The shopping hub now spanned 1,600,000 leasable square feet.

Three anchor stores have gone through rebranding scenarios over the years. Goudchaux's became a Goudchaux's / Maison Blanche in 1982 and Maison Blanche in 1988. With Dillard's acquisition of Mercantile stores, in May 1998, Dillard's bounced from its original anchor spot (at the north end of the mall) to the Goudchaux's / Maison Blanche spot (on the south).

The original Dillard's store was sold to Saks, Inc., who re-opened the space as a Birmingham-based Parisian in December 1998. This store was rebranded as another Saks Inc. subsidiary, Jackson-based McRae's, September 7, 1999.

In March 2001, May Stores acquired nine stores from Saks, Inc., including the McRae's at CORTANA MALL. This was rebranded as a Houston-based Foley's. Federated Stores acquired May Stores in August 2005. As a result, the CORTANA MALL Foley's received a Macy's nameplate September 9, 2006.

Wilson's Catalog Showroom morphed into a Service Merchandise in 1985 and Steve & Barry's University Sportswear in 2004. This location was shuttered, along with the chain, in late 2008. A campus for Birmingham-based Virginia College opened in the structure on October 4, 2010. Mervyn's, shuttered in February 2006, has been vacant since this time.

Formidable commercial competition arrived in October 1997, with the completion of the region's second megamall, MALL OF LOUISIANA {4.5 miles south of CORTANA MALL, in Baton Rouge Parish}. This was followed by SIEGEN LANE MARKETPLACE {5.7 miles southeast, also in Baton Rouge Parish} in 2002. Baton Rouge's first lifestyle center, TOWNE CENTER AT CEDAR LODGE {1.9 miles southwest, in the city of Baton Rouge} was completed in 2005.

The proliferation of regional shopping hubs hurt business at CORTANA MALL. A makeover, completed in November 1991, attempted to reverse this trend. A second update, done in 1997 and 1998, included resurfacing of the parking lot, new landscaping inside and out, new ceiling treatments and interior lighting. A name change, to MALL AT CORTANA, was also implemented.

The official name of the center reverted back to CORTANA MALL in 2009. This event was joined by the opening of several new inline stores...including Trios West, 80 Stitches, Baton Rouge Police Supply, Cozamel Mexican Restaurant, Bernard's Pralines and Goldman's Jewelers. The Dillard's location was also converted into a Clearance Center.

New York City-based Mall Properties, Incorporated, saddled with an upside down mortgage, sold the CORTANA property back to the lender in April 2011. The Dallas-based Woodmont Company was brought in the manage the property and lease its vacant area. In March 2013, Las Vegas-based Moonbeam Capital Investments, Limited Liability Company acquired CORTANA MALL.

Sources:

"Mall At Cortana" article on Wikipedia
www.urbanprairiewasteland.blogspot.com
www.cortanamall.com
http://www.mallproperties.com
http://moonbeamproperty.com

6 comments:

The Curator said...

Jamie said...
Thanks for the tribute to Cortana Mall. I grew up in this mall and have so many memories there. It is still a nice mall with many places to shop. And it is also very, very clean, everything inside shines all the time! I have many recent pictures of the mall and would send some if you would like to add them to this tribute.

The Curator said...

Jamie,

Thanks much for all of the nice photos. I fitted as many into the existing article as I could...and they look great.

Thanks again.

Cheers,

Jamie said...

You are welcome! I am glad to help make the post about Cortana Mall better. They look great too!

Jamie

The Curator said...

Thanks again...

Cheers,

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the pictures and layout! I know this may be hard but is it possible to get pictures and a layout of the Belle Promenade Mall?

The Curator said...

I don't have any sort of info about BELLE PROMENADE. It may take a major "fact finding mission" to dig up anything on it.

I am involved right now in composing a new AUSTRALIAN MALLS update for the new SHOPPING MALL MUSEUM site....so all my attention is being directed "down under".

You could research BELLE PROMENADE on your own, but I must add that I have found Louisiana malls to be some of the most difficult to research.

For whatever reason, there is not a whole lot of info on the internet about them....and the local New Orleans ("parish" in this case) property info websites leave a LOT to be desired.

You could try to find an archived website on the Internet Archive
[http://www.archive.org] "Wayback Machine"...but this can be very tricky. You have to know the exact URL of the site in order to get to it....IF one is even archived.

However, being as how the mall has been out of commission since 1999, this may be unlikely.

If all else fails, just do MANY MANY "Belle Promenade Mall" Google searches and see what comes up.

So sorry I can't be of more help here.

Thanks for posting and I'm pleased that you liked the CORTANA article here.

Cheers,